N°2 | 2014
Briefing Paper Early Warning System: A Critical Aspect in Promoting Agricultural Productivity in the Face of Climate Change by Munu Martin Luther*
Summary The briefing paper suggests a number of good practices that Kenya could learn from in improving its early warning system. In spite of strides in the Meteorological service, Kenya still has inadequate systems to warn farmers on climate changes. As a result, farmers are exposed to extreme weather conditions i.e. drought/floods which undermines farming.
Introduction Climate change is seen as a great livelihood and ultimately development challenge, not only in Africa but globally. Africa however faces greater challenges due to both location and capacity constraints to mitigate and adapt to climate change. In Kenya, extreme weather conditions in the name of drought and floods have affected agricultural productivity, which directly affects the livelihoods of farmers and enhancing early warning system has been identified as critical in addressing the challenge. However, a study conducted by CUTS International under the project Promoting Agriculture, Climate and Trade Linkages in the East African Community (PACT EAC)1 identifies challenges in early warning system as one of the key factors undermining agricultural 1 Otieno. G., Mungai, O., Ogalo, V. (2013) Climate, Food, Trade: Where is the Policy Nexus?, CUTS International
* Assistant Programme Officer, CUTS Africa Resource Centre, Nairobi
productivity and enhanced livelihoods of farmers. In spite of strides in the Meteorological service, there are inadequate systems to warn farmers on climate/ weather changes. As a result, farmers are exposed to extreme weather conditions i.e. drought/floods which undermine farming. In 2011 for example, the country witnessed the worst food insecurity crisis which saw over four million people put on food aid.
Early warning system Early warning system can be broadly defined as the provision of information, predicting an emergency situation and how that information can be used to respond to such a situation to minimise or adapt to its impacts. According to the 2009 United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) Terminology on Disaster
Risk Management, it is the set of capacities needed to generate and disseminate timely and meaningful warning information to enable individuals, communities and organizations threatened by a hazard to prepare and to act appropriately and in sufficient time to reduce the possibility of harm or loss.2 In the agricultural sector, where this brief puts in to perspective the early warning system, it refers to the prediction of weather information, under the Kenya Meteorological Services (KMS), circulating this information to users, which in this case are farmers, and preparing them to face the expected extreme weather conditions i.e. drought and floods. Agricultural sector is very important in the Kenyan economy, employing more than 75 percent of the workforce and accounting for around half of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).3 Climate change is directly affecting productivity in the sector, posing a threat to the livelihoods of millions. This enforces the need for an efficient and effective early warning system to shield not only farmers but the entire population from extreme weather conditions by providing them with accurate and timely information such that appropriate measures can be taken. Farmers have had huge losses as a result of poor prediction/dissemination of weather information, especially the onset and cessation of rains together with predictions on intensity of rains. Inadequate information sharing by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources through KMS has undermined effective dissemination of weather information to enable farmers take appropriate measures in case of expected extreme weather conditions. Besides, weather information is complex and farmers find it hard to interpret. Agriculture